After an unusual season in 2017-18 where no NHL head coaches had been fired, Todd McLellan has now become the fourth coach during the 2018-19 season to be dismissed.
McLellan and the Oilers have strugged mightily since their breakout 2016-17 season in which they surprised the NHL and earned a playoff spot. Connor McDavid carried the team on his back that year with 30 goals and 70 assists. Since then, the Oilers managed a losing season in 2017-18 where they only earned 78 points, and have followed it up with less than desirable results so far this season.
Former Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock was named replacement for the struggling franchise. Hitchcock has been a winner throughout his long career, coaching the Stars to a Stanley Cup Championship in 1999 and the Blues to the playoffs five times during six seasons. He ranks third in all time wins with 823, trainly only Joel Quenneville and Scotty Bowman.
Hitchcock made himself available after stepping down as coach of the Dallas Stars after missing the playoffs last season.
“I have contemplated this since our last game, and I came to the conclusion that now is the right time to step away and let the younger generation of coaches take over,” Hitchcock said after stepping down.
The opportunity with Edmonton came with a different outlook. Hitchcock is originally from Edmonton and the opportunity for him to coach his hometown team was too great to turn down.
“It’s not going to change overnight, but we can start taking some steps,” Hitchcock said after being hired. “I told the players today I can take them to a place personally that they can’t get to themselves, but they’ve got to buy into that, and it’s not going to be comfortable at times.”
While the NHL season is now almost a quarter of the way through, there is still plenty of time for the Oilers to change their fate. After 21 games played, they only sit three points outside of a wild card spot and one point shy of a the Vancouver Canucks for third place in the Pacific Division. With the Canucks trending down after a hot start, and the Ducks battling struggles of their own, he coaching change could be just the motivation the team needs to break out and win a spot in the postseason.